Who had the Mavericks winning 50 games back when they were 16-18?

If you can honestly raise your hand on that one, you are either a psychic, a hopelessly optimistic MFFL or Mark Cuban.

If memory serves, most of the fandom was ready to push the seat-ejector button on the entire roster, except for anybody named Luka.

Coughing and wheezing would be a fair way to describe the first couple months of the Mavericks’ season.

Literally, coughing and wheezing.

In an 82-game season, we tend to forget that in December, when the Mavericks were below .500, they had players like Isaiah Thomas, Carlik Jones, JaQuori McLaughlin, Charlie Brown and Eugene Omoruyi among the 27 bodies that have slipped on uniforms this season and played in games.

The Mavericks were wrecked by the COVID-19 outbreak and paid the price with an ugly record until after Christmas.

But looking back, at least one Maverick believes the health issues during the holiday season were something that the team needed and served a valuable role in the ultimate outcome of the season.

“I’m just proud of how we bounced back when we had the outbreak,” starting guard Jalen Brunson said. “When things were rough, guys were in and out of the lineup, our 10-day (joiners) were in and out. It was a rough time.

“But it helped us refocus and I think having to teach the new guys about our system helped us. The players on the original roster kind of relearned it and mastered it because we had to teach it. Once we did that, everything kind of became second nature and things started clicking a lot easier for us.

“That COVID outbreak was a blessing in disguise, to say the least.”

That’s a glass-half-full way of looking at it.

But Brunson usually has a pretty good handle on how the Mavericks respond to different situations.

They have become a much better offensive team in the second half of the season than they were before the new year. And their defense, while a bit shaky of late, has established itself as being capable of making life tough on opponents.

And it might not be necessary to worry about any defensive slippage of late. Most of the league has posted better offensive numbers over the last month.

The total package that the Mavericks have put together at 50-30 going into the final two regular-season games has Jason Kidd feeling confident, if not content.

“Very confident, because . . . this is who we are,” he said. “We’re going to come out and compete and if we’re healthy, we believe we can compete with anybody.

“We’re not looking at the playoffs yet. We still have some work to do. But I like the way we’re playing and being healthy at this time of year is big.”

It beats the way they were beset by medical problems in the holiday season.

Twitter: @ESefko


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